I know the empathy borne of despair; I know the fluidity of thought, the expansive, even beautiful, mind that hypomania brings, and I know this is quicksilver and precious and often it's poison. There has always existed a sort of psychic butcher who works the scales of transcendence, who weighs out the bloody cost of true art.
In someone that cycles between depressive symptoms and hypomania, it is called cyclothymia. It involves similar ups and downs as bipolar but the depressive symptoms are usually dysthymia. Major depression and dysthymia can co-occur. One important difference is that hypomania doesn’t have a psychotic component as mania can have. It also lasts less time than mania, a few days compared to a week or longer.
Some of the symptoms:
- Engaging in risky behavior often done on impulse
- No need for sleep
- Increased energy
- Increased confidence
- Racing mind
- Starting too many projects
- Lowered inhibitions
- Easily distracted
There are lots of possible symptoms and a person will not likely have all of them.
Like all things psychiatry, it is diagnosed through subjective criteria. If the doctor knows you and can observe you while you are in this state that is probably the most accurate. Otherwise, the patient describes what happened and at some point, the shrink will diagnose you if they think it is accurate. There is no objective test.
Drugs, either illicit or prescription can cause it along with stress, lack of sleep. Most likely, they will not know what caused it unless it is drug-induced. It does typically start as a teen or young adult, like other severe psychiatric disorders.
I don’t know if I have this but I will never get diagnosed with it because there is no possible scenario that will get me back into a shrinks office.
I upset my primary doctor because of this, I think. Last month I was averaging two hours of sleep a night and oddly it was severely affecting me. I sent her a message asking for help. She said that insomnia is a symptom - true and that we need to find the underlying cause. That is why I like her she is very thorough, competent, and not interested in simply treating symptoms long term. She said the first step is to see if there is a mental component and that I should see someone in mental health.
I can be a very sarcastic and flippant person but not in serious matters. Maybe it was the lack of sleep and energy that overrode my usual boringness but I told her the truth in very blunt, but polite terms. I told her that I already went through cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and was told that I do not have insomnia - their best guess was some psychosomatic issue that they were uninterested in exploring because I had already gone through the entire program before deciding that I do not have insomnia, which is 6 sessions. So I told my doctor that since I do not have insomnia there can’t be an underlying cause and that “under no circumstances will I ever set foot into MH again”. I thanked her for her time and told her I will try to figure it out and she did not respond.
Of all people, she should know exactly why I refuse to see them. She had to clean up their mistakes and treat me for quite a few serious side-effects that psych meds caused.
Anyway, my best guess by going through the symptom list - which is all psychiatrists do, other than possibly observe the patient - is that I probably do have that, actually cyclothymia since dysthymia or a major depressive episode always follows. This worries me a lot despite enjoying it.
How does this feel? Like the wind blowing through my mind and body. It is hard to explain but it is a very nice feeling.
That is the main feature other than having lots of energy and my mind being clear for once. From what I remember from before getting constant depression 25 years ago, this is different than being normal. It gives me a sense of invulnerability and feeling very powerful.
My impulsive nature and I do have one - why are you laughing - gets amplified a bit so I do things like head out on an easy 20-mile bike ride and end up doubling that and taking on harder stretches of the trail, on a whim. That is not too dangerous except that for any ride under 20 miles I do not bring anything except my phone and headphones. The lack of water makes for a painful ride.
I wonder if my current spending spree I did while feeling hypomanic was not part of the symptoms because it was all things that I need and nothing I bought was unreasonably expensive.
I bought that $300 pontoon fishing boat, plus a $50 portable air compressor and a $40 life jacket. I was thinking of it before my burst of energy. I know I wrote about how it will open up more fishing opportunities and that is true but I am also excited that it will help keep me away from people. With the limited bank space around most lakes, I usually got stuck near other people fishing which was stressful for me.
I also bought a $250 cedar planter on legs for my garden, again something I had been planning but my sister showed it to me and I bought it after reading a few reviews without additional thought. The bike issue is one that makes me think that I let bad impulses get to me. The first thing I bought was a $150 set of Bluetooth headphones built for cutting out the wind simply because, on my long bike rides, my current headphones would die three hours into a four-to-five-hour ride depending on how my knees are. A bike ride that long might be a bigger clue that something is not right in my head.
If only it stopped there. A $40 biking backpack with a water bladder, very practical if I am going to ride for so long.
Those long bike rides are made worse by my terrible, slow, cheap Walmart bike so I really needed a new bike. I did some research and checked bike shops and was still lost since I don’t know the technical aspects of bikes made more complicated with severely damaged knees. So I talked to a sales lady and she recommended a specific bike but I had some reservations. It was lighter than mine but not significantly so and the tires were very wide and had large tread and the wheels were smaller than a normal road bike but larger than a mountain bike. It was a gravel bike and a hideous orange color. It is great on trails and unpaved roads but was stressful on my knees because of the weight and friction from the tires. I loved that it had disc brakes but the Shimano Claris shifters and whatnot were underwhelming, especially given the retail price of the bike. It had 16 total gears but was bad at cross-chaining and most of the gears were the same and my knee needs lots of gears depending on the steepness of the path I am taking and mood of my knees. I took it on a few light 10 mile rides and there is no way I could go on long rides with it even though I could with my cheap bike. It was a $950 bike on sale for $700 which is what made me try it. I am a sucker for a good sale.
I asked if I could exchange it for something else and she said yes, so I spent two days searching their inventory and finally found the perfect bike with good features to price ratio. It is $1400. I can afford it but it is still stressful to spend that much on a bike. I am aware that that is not a high-end bike. More like a higher-end entry-level bike.
It has a carbon frame with hydraulic disk brakes and the components are mixed a little but are based on the much better Shimano Tiagra set that will hopefully have more useful gears out of the 20. I hope it will work out. I have not ridden it, they had to order it and with luck, I will pick it up tomorrow. I am very excited to have a much lighter and faster bike. The $700 bike cut 15 minutes off a 10-mile ride so this $1400 bike should save significant time on all of my rides which makes it that much more of a good investment. I can either ride just as long and go further with less stress on my knees or be finished earlier giving me more time for other projects.
I put it on a 0% interest credit card so I have 12 months to pay it off which makes it that much more affordable. I still won’t have to touch my savings, which is more of an emotional thing than a strictly logical decision. All the other things I bought on my spending spree were paid off from the stimulus check after collecting points for them on a different card. So this was hardly devastating financially. I do hate spending so much in such a short time, especially when I could have forgone all of this and just get new flooring for my house. All of my spendings were logical and will help make my life a little better and it is not like the flooring is in critically bad shape.
I also bought a GPS odometer and speedometer for it so I don’t have to have any wires on it. That was $100. I have a cheap wired one on my Walmart bike. Not really for the speed indicator, but for a way to track my distance. It is probably the only part of my spending spree that isn’t all that necessary.
The last things I need are a quality helmet and bike lock. This new bike will be much faster and I don’t typically wear a helmet and for me, it doesn’t matter but it makes my granddaughter worry. I never worried about a $120 bike getting stolen and I do keep it in my garage but halfway through long rides, I need to stretch a bit and rest by walking a little. I would leave my Walmart bike unattended without fear but the thought of doing that with the new bike makes my hands sweat. So that will be at least $50 for a decent U-lock and cable. Decent enough that it would take much longer to break into it than I will be away from it. I don’t think that there is a bike lock in existence that can not be picked in under 5 minutes by a professional or cut with the right tools. Luckily, most bike thieves are nothing more than tweakers so 5 minutes is more than enough deterrent. I found one light enough it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle if I keep it in my backpack.
It is very out of character for me to not spend weeks or even months shopping for something so expensive, this was all over four days. I typically spend a lot of time researching and then waiting for a good price. It took me about six weeks to finally decide on a TV and that saved me over $200. I spent at least two months shopping for new couches and that saved me about $600 and I ended up with much better couches than I thought I could get.
It is not like I went out and bought a new car - that would put me in a little bind right now - something I really want but I am waiting another year or two until I get saving built up more so I can get new flooring in my home. Even when I am impulsive, I am cautious and reasonable. That is pretty boring but if some emergency came up, I could put up to $10,000 cash for it today without stressing my monthly finances. Given that barely half of Americans can come up with $500 cash for an emergency, that is not bad for being on a fixed income from a disability. Still, I am worried sick that I spent too much. Especially on me, I hate buying myself things but immensely enjoy buying gifts for those I care about.
Many people with varying types of mania have gotten themselves in serious financial trouble and worse, legal trouble, so I can not complain too much about a little overspending on things I really needed.
I do wonder if riding my bike is what triggered this round of extra energy. It started on a bike ride and it has been rainy the past few days and I have crashed somewhat. I am writing this in a post-hypomania depressed mood. I am not writing morose screeds so the crash must not be that bad.
If it is hypomania, it is worrying. This is progressing exactly like my seizure disorder. I had weird symptoms a few times over two years before I had my first grand mal. I had this hypomanic feeling two summers ago and nothing until recently. I also had my first seizure at a strange age, absent brain damage, seizures typically start as a child, or when over 60. I had my first partial complex seizure at 25 and grand mal at 27. Depression can start at any age, and I think the seizures are what started it but the psychosis showed up 4 years ago and psychotic symptoms typically start around 18, give or take a few years, or after 60, absent brain damage. It is very strange.
Hypomania can progress into mania like my complex seizures lead to grand mals. If it does that, given my severe depression and mild psychotic symptoms it could lead to bipolar and that is terrifying.
In fact, many features of hypomania--such as outgoingness, increased energy, intensified sexuality, increased risk-taking, persuasiveness, self-confidence, and heightened productivity--have been linked with increased achievement and accomplishment.
Is hypomania a good or bad thing? I think that depends on how well one handles it. Someone who is normally impulsive or aggressive is probably not going to have a good time. The way it has been affecting me, it is very positive. I am so isolated and cautious by nature that being more aggressive just makes me seem more normal, probably. If it progresses to bipolar, there is nothing positive about that.
Having more energy is great but it hurts when it vanishes, my inability to sleep doesn’t vanish with hypomania but it makes it easier to deal with.
This essay is not very interesting and rambles a lot but if I notice any interesting patterns to this I may revisit it in a future article.